The demonstration, coordinated by the Lesbian Avengers/NJ, was held in response to a T-shirt that has been sold widely at Shore tourist areas, including Seaside Heights and Wildwood, since the beginning of the month.
The T-shirt displays a likeness of the cartoon rabbit used by General Mills to sell TRIX cereal. Using a takeoff on the TRIX slogan, "Silly Rabbit, TRIX are for kids," the T-shirt proclaims, "Silly Faggot, Dix are for Chix."
"This is the reason for this rally, and we are here to tell the community of New Jersey that this T-shirt offends us," Diana McCague, a member of the Lesbian Avengers/NJ, said as she held up the T-shirt. The crowd responded with hissing and booing.
"We're not saying ban the shirt," McCague said before the rally. "We want the First Amendment protected, too. We just want people to understand why this is offensive to us. I was really offended and I feel threatened by it."
McCague said the protest was held in Belmar instead of the larger resorts of Seaside Heights or Wildwood because it is centrally located. In addition, she said, the 2d Avenue Beach is frequented by gays and lesbians, and many of the rally supporters felt safer on the beach.
Supporters at the rally said the slogan on the shirt, and particularly the cartoon rabbit, was designed to corrupt children by teaching them hatred of homosexuals.
During the rally, Tom Limoncelli, the president of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition in New Brunswick, encouraged people to stop patronizing stores that sell the shirt.
"When you see trash on the beach, you clean it up, but more importantly, you encourage people not to litter in the first place," Limoncelli said. ''These T-shirts are trash, and we must encourage people to not buy them."
A couple of people yelled derogatory comments as they drove by the rally. One local woman, Edna Howell, went to the rally wearing one of the shirts, bought specifically to protest the rally, she said.
"I'm tired of people being in my face," she said. "It's not just acceptance (gays) want. They want approval and support."
The supporters of the rally, however, largely ignored Howell.
General Mills has sent letters to several potential producers of the iron- on decal, claiming it is a copyright infringement of both the TRIX rabbit and slogan.
Barry Wegener, the spokesman for General Mills in Minneapolis, said the company's legal department had asked that shops pull the shirts from the shelves and destroy them or send them to the company.
He said similar shirts also had been sold in Ocean City, Md., and Houston, and in Florida and California.
"We really see it as damaging the image of our cereal," Wegener said. He said there was no evidence that the shirt had affected cereal sales. "The whole thing is just offensive, and we want to get rid of it and get it off the market," he said.
Last week, Gov. Whitman released an appeal asking merchants not to sell the T-shirt and individuals not to buy it. She said it was offensive, demeaning and "an appeal to personal bias and bigotry."
However, the shirts remain on sale on the beaches and in the boardwalk shops of New Jersey.
One clothing store manager at a Wildwood boardwalk shop said the shirts were his number-one seller. He sells about six dozen a day at $9.99 a shirt, he said.